The Primacy of the Nurse in New Zealand 1960s-1990s: Attitudes, Beliefs and Responses over Time
Exploring the past, and pulling ideas through to the present, to inform the future can make a valuable contribution to nurses and nursing in New Zealand. By gaining some understanding of the attitudes and beliefs nurses held, and how these influenced their responsiveness, we can learn what active responses might help inform our future. Nurses in New Zealand, as individuals and within the profession as a whole, reveal the primacy of the nurse – nurses who have made and can continue to make a difference to the health of the peoples of New Zealand. A hermeneutic process was used to interpret material, from international texts, national texts and public records over four decades, the 1960s to 1990s. This was supplemented and contrasted with material from twelve oral history participants. Analysis of the material led to the emergence of four themes: Nurses’ decision-making: changes over time; An emerging understanding of autonomy and accountability; Nurses as a driving force; and Creating a nursing future. These four themes revealed an overall pattern of attitudes, beliefs and responses of the New Zealand Registered Nurse. The themes surfaced major revelations about the primacy of the nurse in New Zealand, nurses confident in their ability to take the opportunity, seize the moment, and effect change. The contribution this thesis makes to the discipline of nursing is an understanding of how the nurse actively constructs the scope of a professional response to the context. The thesis demonstrates how nurses can learn from the past, that the attitudes and beliefs that underpin our active responses can either move us forward, or retard our progress. As nurses we can also learn that to move forward we need particular attitudes, beliefs and responses, that these are identifiable, and are key factors influencing our future, thus ensuring the continued primacy of the nurse.